Mitt Romney, after initially distancing himself from Todd Akin's… (Evan Vucci / AP Photo )
WASHINGTON -- Pressure on Republican Todd Akin to abandon the Senate race came from the top of the ticket Tuesday as Mitt Romney urged the Missouri congressman to “exit.”
The GOP’s presumed presidential nominee had distanced himself from Akin’s remarks on “legitimate rape,” but went a step further as the Missourian’s candidacy threatens to disrupt the rest of the GOP ticket.
“As I said yesterday, Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country,” Romney said in a statement. “Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”
PHOTOS: "Legitimate rape" and other disastrous quotes
Romney was moved to act after past and present Republican senators from Missouri pressed Akin to leave the race, the Romney campaign said.
Akin’s defiance of party leaders has captivated political circles as he pushes forward with a campaign that experts said Tuesday is irreversibly damaged by his comments.
Missouri had been the GOP’s best chance to defeat a Democrat as the party seeks control of the chamber, but the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said Tuesday the Senate seat in Missouri now is likely to remain Democratic, while the Rothenberg Report pushed it to toss up.
Republican strategists are now worried that the congressman’s views on abortion will come to define the party.
Akin apologized repeatedly for his comments, saying he misspoke, even as he touted support Tuesday from a chief proponent of the theory that rape victims rarely become pregnant.
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